Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Yahoo acquires SearchFox

Last week, SearchFox announced that they are shutting down.

Today, Mike Arrington at TechCrunch reports that SearchFox's assets and some employees will be acquired by Yahoo.

SearchFox never came out of closed beta, so I didn't get to see it, but it apparently was some kind of personalized feed reader. From Mike Arrington's profile of SearchFox:
Our RSS reader learns by watching what individuals and the entire community find interesting ... Existing RSS readers only show information chronologically, which quickly leads to information overload.

Our goal is to that you see what's interesting to you on the first page, rather than on the 20th page. Initial studies show that our personalization engine surfaces 50% of the interesting posts to the first page after a week of use, and reaches the 90% level after two weeks of use.
Huh, that sounds familiar ([1] [2] [3]).

I have seen some comments by people in the closed beta group who very much liked SearchFox and were disappointed by the shutdown. But I have seen other comments that SearchFox had gotten annoyingly slow even though the user base was tiny.

I am surprised that SearchFox never got out of closed beta. Even if they were desperate, why would SearchFox not open their doors to the world?

Perhaps they didn't because they couldn't. Building scalable personalization systems is hard. Techniques that work fine on toy problems completely break down at scale. The systems have to be designed from the start to do fast recommendations in real-time for hundreds of thousands of users.

Maybe SearchFox would have worked fine with a large user base. I don't know. But, if it would have, I think it is odd that they didn't just launch it.

1 comment:

burtonator said...

I also hear it wasn't for a lot of money either.

Not 100% sure though.

Yeah.. scalable recommender systems are hard.

I also take objection to their blanket statement that other RSS aggregators didn't provide rankings when that's simply not the case.

They should have said that they intended to 'focus' on this functionality.